Old negatives sticking together

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by samuli schielke, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. samuli schielke

    samuli schielke Member

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    Dear forum readers,

    I am currently helping relatives of mine to archive the negatives of an old photographer whose work extends from the late 1940's practically until the present. Since he is too old to do the practical work, his son and I have taken over the task of archiving and making contact prints of those of his negatives that have not been archived yet. Since scanning all negatives would be too time-consuming (and we don't have the money to pay someone to do it), we will move the negatives (with few exceptions 35 mm) from their original envelopes to transparent archival sleeves (which has to be done anyway) and then make contact sheets of them. The contact sheets will be scanned for an overview, but any future enlargements will obviously be made from the original negatives.

    The problem that we have is that some of the older negatives, packed in envelopes with all stripes of a film on top of each other, are sticking together. I have so far discovered two films, undated but from between 1945 and 1955, where the stripes are firmly stuck with each other. The pictures on the film are potentially very valuable. So here comes the question: What would be the safest way to separate the stripes from each other, given the age and possibly fragile condition of the negatives?

    Greetings and many thanks for your help,

    Samuli Schielke
     
  2. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    As you are not getting immediate response to this I will give my 2cents. They are undoubtedly stuck from some sort of moisture at some point in the past. You are going to have to use some sort of moisture in loosening them up. What you should probably do first is get hold of a qualified restoration person through a museum and ask that person. Perhaps a soak in alcohol would help break the bond. Or perhaps a soak in plain warm water. If you do decide to soak one and try to get it apart I would suggest you go really really slow with it and don't think it is going to just come right apart. The liquid you soak it in has to have a chance to work into what ever is sticking the films together a little at a time. But do go first to the restoration expert and get his advice.
     
  3. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I agree with dpurdy, a soak in water is probably the safest, perhaps with a bit of photo-flo (normal dilution). I also agree that for negatives that are valuable, talking to a restoration expert would be the best first step.
     
  4. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Samuli,

    Try contacting the George Eastman House. At one time it was possible to get suggestions from their experts through e-mail. I don't know if they still do that.

    Neal Wydra
     
  5. RobC

    RobC Member

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    What the others said plus:

    I know those nice archival transparent negative sleeves seem like a good idea and the material they are made of may be very very archival BUT the atmosphere contains humidity and humidity varies and those old thick emulsion negatives will be very good at absorbing that humidity and when the humidity reduces those negatives WILL sooner or later show a tendancy to stick to those nice transparent archival sleeves. Use paper sleeves which have a much coarser surface than those shiny seethrough sleeves and to which your valuable negatives will have far less surface contact and are far less likely to stick too.
     
  6. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    Hi, you might want to research "Nitrate Film" as sometimes this type of film will have spontaneous combustion...

    Jon
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I honestly don't know how to solve your sticking problem but wholeheartedly agree with rob champagne to not use the plastic Print File sleeves. I have problems with moisture sticking between the plastic and the film, and fortunately I think I have no more than 1,500 rolls or so to change to paper one of these days...
    The negative aspect of using those sleeves is that making contact sheets would become a bit more cumbersome with you needing to take the negative strips out of the sleeves first.

    - Thomas
     
  8. samuli schielke

    samuli schielke Member

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    Thank you for your answers. I will take your advise and ask an expert. I happen to know someone who works as a restaurator in a museum. Not on photos, but she might no someone with knowledge. I understand that celluloid was not used for still photography after WWII anymore so that should not be a problem.

    Too bad about the sleeves - I personally always use pergamine sleeves, but for the sheer amount of work we thought transparent sleeves would be better because the possibility of contacting them in the sleeves would minimise risk of scratches etc. on the negatives. But since sticking IS a problem, I guess it's bye bye plastic.

    Thanks,

    Samuli Schielke